November 9, 2015

Saint Nektarios and the Neo-Philokalic Movement

By Protopresbyter Harilaos E. Papageorgiou

After the period of national decline and slavery, as a fruit of the living consciousness of the Christian faithful and in harmony with the phenomenon of the Neomartyrs, there was a period of regeneration. The beginnings of the Neo-Philokalic movement of the elders of the 20th century is found in the Kollyvades movement that developed in the late 18th century and extended until the beginning of the last century. With this refreshing movement, Orthodox spirituality averted the risk of becoming fit for a museum, and the value of experience emerged, with popular piety and the importance of worship for the monastic life.

Saint Nektarios as an Intermediate Link of the 
Old Tradition and the Neo-Philokalic Movement

The presence of Saint Nektarios in the life of the Church can be described as the missing link that connects the Philokalic with the Neo-Philokalic spiritual movements. This Hierarch appeared at the end of the Kollyvades movement as one who continued it and was like-minded with it. In fact he contributed to the preservation and enrichment of new theological and ascetical-patristic views and positions. The Saint primarily dealt with the acquisition of knowledge and scientific training, and as one who was educated he transmitted genuine virtue and wisdom. As a skillful educator he especially molded the youth in Christ and then the schoolgirls/nuns of his Cenobium of the Holy Trinity in Aegina. For a certain period of time he was a preacher of the divine word, developing truths and concepts beyond the known and usual. He conducted sacred pilgrimages to Mount Athos and ended up with spiritual ties with eminent Athonite fathers with the purpose of acquiring and owning sacred experiences.

His main task after his withdrawal from the direction of Rizarios School was to prepare and install an informal monastic sisterhood that comprised of his female students in the Monastery in Aegina together with the cultivation of the inner life, grace and sanctification. The withdrawal from his active ecclesiastical/pastoral activities in search of divine quietude and watchfulness was the culmination of hitherto successful spiritual effort. This path took him from being a fiery orator, a successful pastor-bishop, and an excellent scientist as an author and fine educator, and he moved to ascetic praxis and neptic theoria. This desire is captured in his correspondence. His characteristics were humility, discernment, authenticity, a thorough knowledge of the ascetic-patristic tradition, and the experience of patristic love. He became a successor of the patristic tradition and an unerring teacher of Orthodox spirituality. Initially he passed through all the stages of sociality within the Church through his positions, but then experienced the fullness of monastic life through the deifying experience of living prayerfully, ascetically and neptically within the fullness of joy and divine gladness. As a spiritual father of monastics, Saint Nektarios renewed in the 20th century the gift of spiritual fatherhood with a holy and paternal care, full of love for monasticism and the path towards perfection.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.